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What does Affected by Natural Disaster Mean on your Credit Report?

Your credit report is the lifeblood of the credit card points and miles hobby. A great score means that you’ll almost never have to worry about being denied a card when the time comes to apply. A poor score on the other hand, often means that you’ll have to sweat out each application, and you might miss out on some good offers. We’ve gone in depth in the past about how your credit score is calculated, we’ve debunked credit score myths, and talked about how to improve your credit score. I’d encourage readers to check out those articles before proceeding. Today we’re gong to focus on answering a question from Facebook about a line item that a user saw on her credit report. The specific question was:

Credit Karma just alerted me to a change in the remarks for one of my Citibank cards. The remark says “Affected by Natural Disaster”. I didn’t add this nor was I affected by a disaster. So my questions: Do I care about this remark?
Should I have it corrected? How did it happen?
As you can see, this person was a bit nervous because she wasn’t sure if her credit report had been adversely affected by this line item, and rightfully so. Anytime you see something out of the ordinary on your credit report, that can (and probably should) be cause for alarm. In this case however, there is nothing to worry about
 

Affected by Natural Disaster – What does it mean?

To understand what it means, we first need to understand how credit reporting works. On the one hand you’ve got financial companies such as banks and credit unions which you have relationships with. They loan you money, extend you credit, etc. To do this they first ask credit reporting agencies for your credit report. That report, as explained by ConsumerFinance.gov is:

a statement that has information about your credit activity and current credit situation such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts.

The credit activity information comes from, or is furnished by, those banks and credit unions that we talked about earlier. Whenever you make payments, close/open accounts, are late with a payment, etc. they tell the reporting agencies about it. In the event that you’re living in or around an area which has been affected by a natural disaster, the banks may choose to submit the “Affected by Natural Disaster” line item to the reporting agencies.

Interestingly, banks are not required to do so, though they’re encouraged to do so as part of the industry standard. Moreover, the Metro 2 format as defined by the CDIA provides guidelines on when to add and remove the remark.

In 2018 a special report from the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection found that after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, nearly 40% of Houston residents had the natural disaster code applied to their credit reports. To read the full report, click here.

The purpose of the special comment is to let creditors known about an extraordinary circumstance should a customer miss or be late for a payment. Banks do not use the code to approve or deny consumers for additional credit.

What to do if you are affected by a natural disaster

While sometimes the code can be added automatically, its important to be proactive if you’re affected by a natural disaster. In those cases, if you think you’re likely to miss a payment and/or pay late, or overcharge on your card, its important that you reach out to your lender. Call each one individually to explain your situation. In most cases the banks have processes in place to protect borrowers against these unforeseen circumstances. You may be able to pay less than required, they may grant you temporarily relief for paying late, etc. Moreover, they will also (in most cases) apply the remark code that we mentioned above to your credit report.

Below are links to several banks disaster help pages, they’re generally a good place to start:

Chase

Bank of America

Wells Fargo

Capital One

Conclusion

Seeing the “Affected by Natural Disaster” remark code on your credit report is not a bad thing and its not going to affect your score in a negative way. In fact, it can be a positive thing if you’re someone who has been affected and has missed a payment (or worse) as a result.

Written by Peter

14 Comments

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  1. I was referred to a credit specialist though my colleague when I had credit issues and they helped me remove all negative items from my report and also improved my score to 750+ excellent very fast. I’m very grateful.

  2. I had the same remark on August 11th, 2018, and I too, did not have a disaster, but I have never missed a payment either, so not sure why I got that remark. I also got another remark from Citibank on May 11th, 2018, that says “credit card-$411” but I also did not miss that payment, nor did I have any finance and interest charges. I always pay in full. So I am quite confused on why Citibank marked me twice. Can you please help clarify? Thanks so much!

    • Mindy – Regarding the $411, was that your balance at the time of the remark? Remember, credit card companies reporting to various agencies in accordance with your account cycle. So if at the close of your cycle you owed $411, thats what they would report. This is how the agencies are able to calculate your scores. My advice in this case is to call Citi directly and ask them about the remarks, to be on the safe side.

  3. My credit karma reported an account being closed on my credit report with new remarks. So it was actually an account that had been reported as a charge off as of 2012. The remark due to a natural disaster was added. This area did recently experience just that. So does this now help the bad account?

    • When you say “bad account” what do you mean, exactly? The new remark isn’t going to automatically help your score, but if you miss payments and/or endure hardship, the bank may work with you to overcome that. If the account is closed and you no longer live in the area however, I’m not sure what can be done, unfortunately.

  4. I have a delinquency on my credit report from over 2 years ago from Peebles. They sent me to collections. However, I had tried to pay that balance over 2 years ago when it wasn’t due exactly 20 minutes after the purchase. I couldn’t access my credit card information because according to Peebles my information was incorrect. I called Peebles immediately and was told not to worry about it and that they would take care of it. I had no idea that they kept the balance on my account and then after 2 years they sent me to collections. I was never informed that I still had these charges the whole 2 years that these fees were accumulating on my account. A $20 purchase turned into a $276 collection and a now horrible credit score of 510. I can’t get a single credit card or loan and I am in DESPERATE need of one in order to pay bills long enough for my personal business to start bringing in money. What do I do?

    • Shauna – I am very sorry to hear about your situation. My best advice is to seek the help of a professional credit counselor as they will be able to plot a path for you towards credit relief, see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0153-choosing-credit-counselor.

      In the meantime, my general advice would be to ensure you’re making on time and in full payments for whatever accounts you’ve got existing. Have you considered signing up for a secured credit card? If not, that can be a good option as it’ll allow you to build credit even if you’ve got a poor score.

      I hope that helps, feel free contact me to talk further.

  5. I have never missed a payment in my lifetime. I have decent credit, slightly below 800. There has been a wildfire in California a few months ago and I live an hour away from this ‘natural disaster’. I was not affected in any way whatsoever. I am leasing a vehicle from Chrysler Capital and I checked my credit score occasionally. I noticed there was a “affected by natural disaster” remark and my credit score dropped significantly by 25 points. From what I understood, that remark should not decrease my credit score. I don’t see anything else that could negatively impact my score to that extent. I called Chrysler Capital but they don’t see anything in their system there was such remark. However they did mention that the remark can be disputed but it will take a month for them to investigate. I am working on writing a dispute letter but there’s really not much proof I can include. I’m desperate to fix this issue. Please help!

    • Kristine – thank you for your comment, I am sorry to hear you’re going through this. Having that remark on your credit score should not decrease your score in any way. Are you sure nothing else about your report changed in the time that the drop occurred? Also, how were you tracking your score? On a free site like Credit Karma, or did you request it from one of the bureaus before and after the remark was added? Do you plan on applying for a large loan (mortgage / home etc) in the short term? Credit score swings can happen, usually as a result of things like; change in payment history, close / open account, change in utilization, etc. If you don’t need to apply for a large loan in the short term I would personally not worry too much about it. Continue check your score and making your payments on time and in full every month. If you still feel like it is a problem you might consider reaching out to a credit counselor who can write to the agencies on your behalf.

      I hope that helps. Please let me know what else you find.

  6. I was working on paying off my student loans. I have it on autopay and sometimes it asks for $144 dollars other times it says I’ve gone above and beyond and doesn’t take any money out. Well, I logged into Credit Karma today and noticed my score had dropped 75 points. I have no credit cards, just my student loans that get deducted automatically. I also had a “new” remark stating Natural Disaster. So I’m wondering how to go about fixing this. I was planning on applying for my first credit card to start building credit, but this has definitely hit me out of now where.

    • The affected by natural disaster should not have an adverse impact on your credit score. Have you seen any other changes lately? For example, is your credit utilization higher than normal? Were you late or did you miss a student loan payment?

  7. It does effect your score. My score dropped 66 points when it was added to my credit with the affected by natural disaster remark.

    • That is very interesting, if true, that would be groundbreaking. To confirm, nothing else on your credit report changed? Age of accounts, utilization percentage, hard inquiries, late payments, etc?

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